In no other region of the United States has the notion of authenticity played such an important yet elusive role as it has in the West. Though pervasive in literature, popular culture, and history, assumptions about western authenticity have not received adequate critical attention. Given the ongoing economic and social transformations in this vast region, the persistent nostalgia and desire for the “real” authentic West suggest regional and national identities at odds with themselves. True West
explores the concept of authenticity as it is used to invent, test, advertise, and read the West.
The fifteen essays collected here apply contemporary critical and cultural theory to western literary history, Native American literature and identities, the visual West, and the imagining of place. Ranging geographically from the Canadian Prairies to Buena Park’s Entertainment Corridor in Southern California, and chronologically from early tourist narratives to contemporary environmental writing, True West challenges many assumptions we make about western writing and opens the door to an important new chapter in western literary history and cultural criticism.
"[E]ditors William R. Handley and Nathaniel Lewis [write an] astute introduction to this new collection of essays. . . . At the core of True West is a cluster of essays on the troubled encounters between those who fancied themselves to be the discoverers of the West and those who were already there. Here, too, the touchstone is the search for nuggets of authenticity amid the claptrap of propaganda, pop culture and pseudo-history. . . . [A] work of highly disciplined scholarship. . . . Again and again, True West reminds us that the relentless search for authenticity is a quest for something that is elusive—and perhaps wholly illusory."—Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
"Essayists include some well-established writers and critics. . . . [T]his title opens important new territory."—Choice
“Well worth reading. I learned a lot from the breadth and depth of the individual essays, and now—as I think about contemporary politics—I find myself rethinking the ways I glibly balance representation and reality. . . . Indeed, I find True West among the most provocative collections I recently have read.”—Ann Ronald, Western Historical Quarterly
Western Historical Quarterly
“Building on the work of Patricia Nelson Limerick and others who have wrestled with the demon unleashed by Turner, [Lewis] and Handley have compiled an interesting olio of essays devoted to the compelling issue of ‘authenticity’ as a specific intellectual problem for those same historians, writers, and artists.”—Aaron Parrett, Montana: The Magazine of Western History
Montana: The Magazine of Western History
“At last, William Handley and Nathaniel Lewis have tackled the slippery slope of what authenticity means to the West. . . . Handley and Lewis’s collection of essays is an excellent first work in the daunting task of exploring the deep interweaving between authenticity and our frontier origins. It is a welcome volume for literary studies and culture studies on the intermountain West.”—Kevin Britz, Journal of Arizona History
Journal of Arizona History